A group of masked protesters will gather outside the Church of Scientology's centres in London on Sunday morning at 11am, starting at the centre on Queen Victoria St before moving on to the Goodge St location. But what has prompted this IRL display of anger?
The protests - which will take place in various other countries on the same day - are the latest and strangest episode in an all-out war between the famously litigious Church of Scientology and a mysterious group known as "Anonymous", a loose collective of internet users united by their love of cat macros and their hatred of controls on free speech (mostly because it threatens to stop them swapping hentai).
This long-simmering antipathy was recently stoked to unprecedented heights by the Church of Scientology's efforts to suppress a video of famed Scientologist Tom Cruise creepily declaring the depth of his love for the "religion", and its miraculous power to cure mental illness, stop wars, and allow him to shoot death beams from his eyes (that last one is not as exaggerated as you might think).
Anonymous, organised on websites such as 4chan (NWS), 711chan (NWS) and others, took exception to the rash of copyright infringement notices which hit YouTube versions of the clip, and declared war. The first wave of attacks, in mid-January, involved DDOS attacks on CoS websites to try and take them offline, hacking of CoS servers to find "dox" (secret Church documents and writings usually restricted to those who have
paid enough, er, managed to rid themselves of sufficient numbers of thetans) and distributing them on file-sharing sites, and faxing endless loops of black paper to CoS machines to make them waste ink. Dubbed "Project Chanology" (boring Wikipedia article here, far more enjoyable Encyclopaedia Dramatica article here, possibly NWS), the attacks prompted an investigation into the history and methods of the Church of Scientology, and the more Anonymous found out, the less it liked what it saw.
In fact, Anonymous' members got so riled that they decided to picket the CoS, leaving their basements and getting special permission from their WoW guilds to be AFK for the morning of Sunday 10th February - the birthday of Lisa McPherson, who, critics allege, died of neglect while in the hands of the CoS.
What these protests will achieve is questionable - in fact, a CoS spokesperson said that they were gaining many new enquiries as a result of the increased publicity - but the fact that the past excesses and rather dubious foundations of the CoS, founded, we must never forget, by a writer of pulp fiction who is on record as saying that the best way to get rich is to "start a religion", are coming to a new and wide audience shouldn't be underestimated. The media (Economist, Guardian, Telegraph...) have taken note, anyway. Another beneficiary: sellers of V masks, the preferred facial garb for the discerning member of Anonymous.
For more details on where to meet, what to wear, and what not to say, visit londonlulz. For more information on worldwide protests and further activity, visit the Enturbulation forums. For more information about Scientology, visit www.xenu.net.